1 thing everyone can agree on
The 1 thing everyone can agree on is... um... Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
I came across an academic study recently that seemed promising and exactly the sort of thing I'd like to write about here.
It's from the University of Pennsylvania, and it purports to show that American politics is driven more by sincere beliefs than by hatred of the other side.
It's hopeful but sadly contrarian. It also flies in the face of most modern political strategy I've seen over the last five or 10 years ... probably longer ... in which "negative partisanship" is described as the most powerful force in politics.
Basically, "everyone knows" that the way to get your base out to vote for you is to preach incessantly that the other side isn't just misguided, or wrong, or dangerous—but flat-out evil.
To make a very long story short, however, once I dug in deep on this study, I just wasn't convinced. I don't think most of us would believe this idea without good evidence, and either I'm not smart enough to understand their case or they haven't made it effectively.
So I set it aside, and I thought to myself:
Now, the one thing we can all agree on, is ...
Hmmm. I started that sentence, and I stared at it for a while.
Between this study that I don't believe, and the school murders in Texas (I'm going to stop calling them "school shootings;" that's too antiseptic), and the divisive political primary results I've barely mentioned here, and the fact that I don't think I've ever gone two days in a row without at least one email from a reader telling me I'm dead wrong (sometimes nicely, sometimes not), I couldn't finish the thought.
And now I'm kind of caught on the fact that I read a study suggesting people are sincere in their beliefs, and my reaction is: Nah, I don't believe it. And even if I did believe it, I'll bet a lot of my readers won't believe it either.
"We're a divided country, but the one thing we can all agree on is ... "
Truly, bupkis. Zilch. Nada. Not for lack of trying.
"We all love our children?"
"Life is inherently good?"
"The color blue is pretty?"
I'll bet you're feeling it now, too. Welcome to my world of overthinking everything, but can you imagine making any of these statements without fear of any contradiction?
Is there anything at all that we could agree on, 100 percent? How about 95 percent?
"You might think we love our children but a country that allows ... abortion ... or doesn't have adequate gun control ... or has out of control housing or medical or education costs ..."
"Life might be inherently good for you, in your upper middle class world of privilege but did you ever stop to think about people who ..."
"I don't like blue and I never have…"
So, here's my challenge for today. Can you think of a single thing that you think everyone would agree on? Let's limit it to the 45,000 or so people who will probably read this newsletter today. A single thing you can be certain that not one of the other 44,999 others or so would disagree with?
Let us know in the comments.
Postscript: Turns out Oprah.com tried to come up with at least one thing everyone could agree on. The only one I agree with is kind of funny and highly specific:
In Titanic, "Rose absolutely had room for Jack on that floating door."
But other than that…
Understandably.com is hiring! I'm planning to bring on at least one (possibly a few) "writer/editor(s)" to help me with the newsletter. Here's the link. If you know someone who might be great for this, please encourage them to apply!
7 other things worth knowing today
An Iraqi man in the U.S. accused of being linked to ISIS operatives was plotting to kill George W. Bush, going so far as to travel to Dallas to take video around the former president’s home and recruit a team of compatriots, according to an FBI search-warrant application filed March 23 and unsealed this week in the Southern District of Ohio. (Forbes)
Out of the entire United Kingdom, the single address that had the most violations for breaking COVID restrictions with parties and other gatherings: 10 Downing Street in London, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson's staff "got drunk, brawled and abused cleaners during ... lockdowns," according to a report. (CNN)
Tennessee is about to become the first U.S. state to make it a felony to camp on local public property. “Honestly, it’s going to be hard,” said Miranda Atnip, 34, who lives in a car after her boyfriend moved out and she could no longer afford an apartment for herself and her three children. “I don’t know where else to go.” (AP)
A "heap gel film" pulls buckets of drinking water per day from thin air, according to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, a development that could be a game-changer for communities with limited access to clean water. (New Atlas)
A child actor who starred in Jaws just became the police chief in the town on Martha's Vineyard where the movie was filmed. (Sky News)
California could soon hold social media companies responsible for harming children who have become addicted to their products, permitting parents to sue platforms like Instagram and TikTok for up to $25,000 per violation under a bill that passed the state Assembly on Monday. (Fox 5 NY)
Maybe you already know that The Onion posts the same article, updated for location and number killed, after every big mass shooting. The headline is always: “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.” They did so yesterday, the 21st time since 2014, and also featured all 21 articles on their homepage. (The Onion, Twitter)
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My cell phone always runs out of battery when I need it most
Other than the obvious Death and Taxes, I would say that fostering an attitude of gratitude will make you a happier person.
I remember hearing as a child that you're never going to make everyone happy so even in a less decisive world, it's probably unrealistic to think of things we can get 99% of people to agree on.